Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Very hot heat.

Today it's 60 F outside. Yesterday and for the whole weekend, it was 90 F. Until last night, I don't think our apartment got below 85 F because the jerks who run the show in our apartment complex don't turn on the a/c until May 10th. Needless to say, there hasn't been much cooking. The most cooking I did was fry an egg one morning. Oh, and Danny got brave Monday night and boiled some pasta which he tossed with some pesto, chopped fresh tomatoes, green onions, and some amazing pecorino romano cheese. The TJ's brand is particularly pungent and tasty. You know, I don't even really appreciate parmesan as much as pecorino romano because it's less flavor bang for the grate. But then, gratuitous cheesiness never does it for me.

Aside from the pasta w/ pesto, we've been eating a lot of salad. I love salad. I'm totally psyched to stock up on cheap fruits and veggies this weekend at M&M when we go visit my parents; my grandma just turned 80, so we're having a BBQ to celebrate. It's a surprise, and she suspects nothing! Hah hah! Anyway, we're going to rock the house.

Also, you'll never believe this, but strawberries at Trader Joe's were less per pound that green peppers. On what crazy planet is this possible??? Peppers can grow in the shoddiest of soil, and they're less bruiseable than strawberries. Oh well. I'm not that disappointed; the strawberries taste awesome chopped up in yogurt with honey drizzled on top for breakfast... :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I'm famous... a crazy on the internet among OTHER crazies on the internet!

I made Top 100 Food Blogs for the Frugal Gourmet! Check me out under "Student Eating."


Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I missed beans hardcore this Passover. After whining about this to my mom over the phone, apparently my father took the next day to expound on his personal suspicion that when the Jews fled Egypt, they HAD to take beans with them because they're dry and lightweight, and besides, beans are one of the oldest cultivated crops so obviously they had them, so therefore it's crazy to not eat them, at what point in Jewish history were they banned, and how can beans rise, anyway? (Plus, we can drink wine which has yeast, so who made up these rules and what were they thinking?)

Next year he wants to go to a Sephardic seder so he can eat rice and beans. I agree with him. My mom's hung up on tradition and refuses to eat them (unless we're at a Sephardic seder) no matter what logic dictates. If you don't understand why Judaism has taken the route it has, my parents are a good micro-study.

Anyway, to celebrate the re-commencement of bean-eating, I decided to follow my occasionally faulty food improvisational instincts. I had a whole bunch of broccoli stalks, so I figured starting with the broccoli latke recipe as the backbone and morphing it into bean burgers would be tasty. In a very complicated, technically advanced, highly skilled procedure, I opened, drained, and dumped a can of black beans into the food processor. Voila, bean burgers. Ah, what the hell, I thought. I have some open chipotles en adobo in the fridge. Why not toss 2 of them in? I food processed until just blended, tasted, and it was good! Frying them up was even tastier, and eating them with some cheese, lettuce, tomato, and ketchup was phenomenal.

It was very close to Dr. Praeger's veggie burgers (unabashedly vegetable in nature, not some weirdly processed meat wannabe). Next time, I'm going to stir in - not food process - some frozen mixed veggies, and maybe add another can of beans. I'll probably have to scale up the flour for binder (or I could try oatmeal... veggie haggis, anyone?). Either way, it'll be healthy, cheap, and delicious.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Passover Recap

So, Passover is done in 24 hours.  I had myself quite a little adventure there, what with this whole making the seder deal.  (FYI, the seder is the traditional meal eaten on the first two nights.)  I'm probably going to leave something out, but I'll do my best to give a complete rundown of everything I made.  The first night was at Danny's older sister's house.  

Seder I:

Roasted Parsnips - 

I love parsnips.  They're a very overlooked vegetable that tastes kind of like a pissed off carrot (in a very good way), and they're dirt cheap.  (Har har, root vegetable, dirt, dirt cheap?  Ok, never mind.)  They are madd tasty.

- parsnips
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- honey
- salt and pepper
- herb of your choice (I used thyme, but rosemary and/or sage or nothing at all would be delicious.)

Peel and cut parsnips.  I cut them diagonally into slices ~1/4 inch thick.  Put slices in a roasting dish, drizzle olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a bit of honey over top (I go light on the honey b/c parsnips are by nature very sweet especially when you roast them, and balsamic vinegar brings some sweetness, too).  Sprinkle a little salt (go easy), some pepper, and thyme over it, and mix it with your hands.  Fingers are the best tools for making sure everything is covered.  It's best if there's a little bit of your dressing in the bottom of the pan; it'll become a nice glaze.  Also, taste this as you go.  Literally, after you mix it up, lick your fingers and adjust how much salt/honey/balsamic you need.   Make it a little on the tangy side.  Like I said, parsnips post-roast are surprisingly sweet.

Throw them in a 400 F oven, and stir every 10-15 minutes until they're soft.  I like to cook mine until they get browned on the edges, but it's up to you.  They get all nice and creamy... soooo good.  

"Candidacy: Seder," a/k/a, Seder II (in no particular order):

Haroset - 

Haroset is a traditional seder food thats supposed to represent the mortar the Jews used when they were slaves to build things for the pharoah.  Ashkenazi Jews (Jews from Eastern Europe) make it out of apples, walnuts, concord grape Manishewitz wine, and maybe some cinnamon.  I grew up with this more tropical variant:

- 1 banana
- ~1-2 handfuls of dates, depending on how much you want to make
- walnuts (~2-4 handfuls)
- 1 medium sized apple, peeled and cored
- Manishewitz concord grape wine

Start with the banana (peeled, obv.) and the apple in the food processor.  Process until obliterated.  Add a handful of dates, and again, process until obliterated.  Add a couple handfuls of walnuts and repeat food processing.  Pour a glug of Manischewitz in and make sure it's fully incorporated.  You want something that is - quite literally - the consistency of mortar.  So, it should be somewhat more viscous than natural peanut butter pre-refrigeration.  When you think about it, it's just walnut butter with fruit.  It's pretty healthy, actually, and it tastes awesome.  If it's startlingly sweet, add more walnuts.  Not sweet enough?  Add dates.  When it tastes nice to you, put it in a tupperware and refrigerate it.  Don't get carried away with the Manichewitz.  You can drink that separately.  

Haroset is one of the things that makes Passover good.  It makes eating matzoh really easy.

Horseradish - 

It reminds us of the unpleasantness of slavery.  Traditionally, it goes on gefilte fish.  Realistically, it goes on whatever you want, and tastes awesome when cut with sour cream, or mayo on a sandwich, etc.  

- roughly 1/2 pound of horseradish root.
- 2-3 fresh small beets
- salt
- a spoonful of sugar
- ~1/2 c of regular vinegar

Peel beets and horseradish root.  BEWARE OF THE HORSERADISH BECAUSE IT RELEASES HIGHLY AWFUL FUMES.  Imagine wasabi to the 100th power.  Your eyes will be watering like mad.  I'm not sure I'd wear contact lenses to do this.  

Anyway, turn on the vent fan and open a window, take your food processor and its grating attachment, and grate the beets and horseradish.  Trying very hard not to spill everything and make a mess, switch from the grating attachment to the blade.  At this point (read: if you're me), you may need to slam the lid back on the food processor, stagger away from it, mopping your eyes, and swearing in any language that occurs to you.  When you've sufficiently recovered, add the vinegar, sugar, and a pinch of salt, and then process until very finely chopped.  As fast as you can, cram it all into a tupperware, and refrigerate until it's needed.  You may need to repeat the stagger-mop-and-swear procedure.  

Chicken Soup - 

Best stuff ever.  This recipe can feed ~4 very hungry people with leftovers.

- ~4 pounds of chicken (dark meat is way more flavorful than white, so go with thighs/leg quarters here... gizzards are also very good, and the word on the street is that chicken feet are the absolute best, but that hasn't been tried in my family for 2 generations.  ...not that I don't believe it...)
- ~2.5 quarts of water
- 1 onion
- 2 carrots
- 1 or 2 parsnips
- as much garlic as you want (~4-5 cloves)
- 2 ribs celery
- large handful of fresh dill
- large handful of fresh parsley
- I happened to have fennel fronds in my fridge, so I used them here, too
- salt and pepper

Start by rinsing, drying, and skinning the chicken pieces and taking off the extra fat, but because it's Passover, you get to make shmaltz, so set the fat aside in a small pot.  Put chicken pieces into a big soup pot, and I like to give them one extra rinsing in warm water (and draining).  Cover with ~2.5 quarts of water, and set on highest possible heat.  While the chicken's getting up to temperature, peel the carrots, onion, parsnips, and garlic, and wash the celery, dill, parsley, and in my case, fennel fronds.  I typically cut the onion in half, leave the garlic intact, cut the carrots, celery, and parsnips into thirds.  Set them aside.  

When the chicken is on the verge of boiling, you'll notice crud on the surface.  Skim it off as it boils into a cup, and when you've gotten most of it off (you'll never get it perfect, so don't even try), throw in the veggies, dill, and parsley (and fennel).  Poke it all under the water, bring it back to a boil, and just let it very gently simmer as long as you want.  Several hours at a very gentle simmer is ideal.  Throw in some salt and pepper when you have a chance, but don't really season it until it's done.  You may be surprised at how much salt it needs, especially if you're using nonkosher chicken, but just go with it.  Also, you can reduce it if it tastes too watery - just uncover it.   

Shmaltz - 

THE ingredient that sums up Ashkenazi celebratory cooking - rendered chicken fat.  We may not have lard in our history, but oh baby, we have chicken grease.  And crispy chicken skins, called gribenes.  It's the Jewish version of pork rinds, cracklings, chicharrones, etc.  IMO, nothing goes better with mashed potatoes.

- Chicken fat, skins
- Water

Put chicken skins and fat in a small pot with a tiny bit of water (to keep them from sticking).  Set it on a low flame, and let it bubble all the water out and render out the fat from the skins.  You will be left with golden chicken grease and highly crispy chicken skin.  This is why onions were invented; to fry in chicken fat.

Chopped Liver Salad - 

I know, I know.  Pretty much everyone in the world HATES liver.  Except for me.  I know this is a lot of liver, but I love it.  And so does Danny and his father.  While it is extraordinarily high in cholesterol, it's also very high in iron.  Again, it's celebratory food.  If I gorged myself every night on this, I'd be very unhealthy.  Once in a while?  No problems there.  I love it, no guilt involved.  I guess just take the proportions from this recipe, if you're skeptical.

- 4 lbs chicken livers
- 6 hard boiled eggs
- 2 onions
- salt and pepper

Turn your oven broiler on high and let everything get hot.  Put livers on a broiling pan, and when the oven is really hot, stick them as close to the heat as possible, and cook them for 2 minutes on one side, and if they're still quite soft, a minute or two on the other.  Don't overcook them!  They'll get grainy and revolting.  I've been eating rather rare liver my whole life, and I've never gotten sick from it.  That being said, I cooked it more than my mom does.  The inside of the livers should be just barely pink.  When they are, take them out of the oven and let them cool a bit.  Put them in a food processor with the eggs.  Chop and fry the onions (preferably in shmaltz) until very caramelized, and add half of them to the processor along with salt and pepper.  Process until smooth and creamy.  Season to your preference (don't be stingy w/ the pepper), and stir the other half of the onions in by hand for texture.  If you're shooting for extremely creamy pate, obv. include them when you process.  

(My mom adds in mayonnaise, but I didn't see the point.  Add it if it makes you happy.)

Carrot Kugel-

This is stolen straight from The Food Processor Bible by Norene Gilletz.  It is delicious cold for breakfast along with tasting quite nice warm as a side dish.  

- 6-8 medium carrots
- 2 large apples, peeled and cored
- 1 lemon in chunks, seeds picked out, peel left on
- 6 eggs
- 2 tbsp matzoh meal
- 1/2 c potato starch (or corn when it's not Passover)
- 1 c sugar
- 1/2 c Manischewitz (or another sweet wine)

Peel and shred the carrots and apples.  Dump them in a large bowl.  Switch from the grater to the blade in the food processor, throw the lemon, in chunks, and process it into oblivion.  Dump it in the bowl with the carrots and apples.  Crack the eggs into the food processor, and process for a few seconds.  Add the eggs and everything else to the bowl, mix it up, and then dump it into a greased vessel.  The book says a 2-quart casserole dish, but I don't really know what that is.  I've been eating/making it forever in those rectangular pyrex things, and I like it better when it's flat and ~1 inch high.  It dries out more and tastes a little better, IMO.  Anyway, whatever you choose to bake it in, put it in a 375 F oven for 50-60 minutes until it gets golden brown.  Obv. it isn't going to rise...  

Broccoli w/ Garlic - 

Very simple, pretty healthy.

- Broccoli
- Garlic
- Olive oil

Cut and wash the broccoli.  Peel a buttload of garlic.  Take the broccoli, put it in a microwave-safe dish, covered, with a bit of water on the bottom, and steam.  I start with 4 minutes, give it a stir and adjust from there.  When done, drain and set aside.  Take garlic, slice it, cut it into chunks, whatever makes you happy, just don't cut it too small.  Put some olive oil into the cooking vessel of your choice, and throw garlic into the cold pan.  Leave the heat on medium low.  The goal here is to draw out the garlic flavor into the oil.  Slowly cook the garlic until golden brown, cut the heat, and mix with broccoli.  

Mashed Potatoes - 

- potatoes cut in chunks
- onion
- garlic
- shmaltz
- gribenes

Put potatoes on to boil.  While they're boiling, cut up the onion into small pieces, and do the same to the garlic.  Set the garlic aside because you don't want to add it to the pan w/ the onion at the same time.  I like chopping up some gribenes, too.  When the potatoes are soft, drain, and leave them.  Get some shmaltz hot, and throw the onion in.  The goal is something between a sautee (fast and hot) and caramelization (hot, but not as hot and more slowly).  When the onion starts to look translucent, add the garlic and gribenes.  Continue until they're browned and smell good, and then dump the potatoes back into the pot they were boiled in, followed by the sauteed add-ins.  Mash.  Season with salt and pepper.  

Matzoh Brittle, a/k/a/ Matzoh Crack -

This is the best way to eat matzoh ever in the history of time.  My mom got the recipe from my former high school math tutor, Mrs. Fisher.

- 5-6 matzohs
- 1 c butter/margarine (do NOT use shmaltz here)
- 1 c brown sugar
- chocolate chips
- walnuts

Start by amply greasing a cookie sheet with RAISED EDGES.  Very, very important, these raised edges.  Fit the matzoh on it in a single layer (use another one if need be), and preheat the oven to 375 F.    Put the butter and brown sugar in a pot and cook on medium heat until simmering.  Cook like that for 3 minutes.  Pour the grease + sugar all over the matzohs, trying to roughly evenly distribute it.  Doesn't have to be perfect.  After you put these sheets in the oven, immediately decrease the heat to 350 F, and bake for 10-15 minutes.  Be very careful it doesn't burn.  Take it out and liberally sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Wait ~5 minutes, and spread them around with a spatula (they will have melted from the heat), and top with walnut pieces.  I had whole ones, so I squashed them in my hands as I went.  When it's cool enough to touch, break it haphazardly into pieces.  I put it in the fridge after that so it'll cool faster.  

Passover Apple Cake - 

This is a little involved, but it's very tasty. It's straight from the food processor bible.

- 4 large apples peeled and cored
- 1/2 c sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp potato starch

- 3 eggs
- 3/4 c sugar
- 1/2 c oil
- 3/4 c cake meal
- 1/4 c potato starch
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup orange or lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 F

For filling: Use the slicing attachment on the food processor, and slice the apples.  Dump in a bowl, mix in the rest of the filling ingredients

For batter: Process eggs with sugar with the blade for 1 minute until light. Add oil through the feed tube while the machine's running, and process another 30 seconds.  Uncover, add cake meal, potato starch, and cinnamon, drizzle juice over dry ingredients, and process with 3-4 on/off quick pulses until just smooth.  Let it sit for 2 minutes so it thickens slightly.  Pour half the batter into a greased 8" square pan.  Add the apple filling mixture and cover with the remaining batter.  Bake for 45-50 minutes, until nicely browned.


So, yeah.  I think the order I made everything was soup, shmaltz, carrot kugel, apple cake, charoset, horseradish, broccoli, matzoh crack, chopped liver, mashed potatoes.  I put the soup up first because that's a long slow process, and so is doing the shmaltz.  Then when things were in the oven, I did a lot of chopping, peeling, etc. so I was ready to do the next thing.  Danny rocked the matzoh balls hardcore and he did most of the cleaning.  

That day, I also had an exam.  Turns out I did slightly above average.  I am a fucking rock star.

Friday, April 10, 2009


I cooked for 5 hours straight yesterday, banged out a seder from soup to dessert, had time for a shower + grooming, and everything came out delicious and amazing. I am still recovering. More on the food later. ;)

Thursday, April 9, 2009


It's Passover, and Danny in his infinite wisdom invited his parents over for the second seder to our apartment, I am seriously going to drop a nut, proverbially speaking.  

I make weird haroset, weird lemony carrot kugel, weird broccoli and garlic, and weird everything.  The apartment is tiny, I don't have candlesticks (I have this crazed rather brilliant idea born of desperation that includes small flowerpots, potting soil, and maybe a few flowers... very Martha-Stewart-on-crack, and the damn thing better work), our table is too small, his parents are bringing their motherfucking dogs, and there's going to be a toddler, our apartment is a death trap, and no one is going to be here who's going to be on my side.  

Danny doesn't count because he's in the middle.

Oh, and I have a test this morning at 8.  And I can't sleep.  

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Apparently, I suck at making croutons.  I tried the other day with some ancient bread ends that somehow never grew mold in the back of the fridge.  The end result wasn't croutons, but it was madd tasty.  

Some recipe suggested heating garlic in olive oil, throwing in the bread, tossing to coat, and then continuing to cook so the bread would toast.  It sounded simple enough.  I think I may have overloaded the pan, because the bread never crisped up.  The garlic started out well enough; I started it in cold oil, gradually letting it heat up so it would infuse all the oil with its garlicky goodness.  When it was sizzling and just starting to brown, I threw in the bread cubes, adding some salt, pepper, and paprika, and tossed and toasted the whole deal.  

This yielded garlicky, salty, chewy, greasy, absolutely delicious bread chunks that weren't crispy but tasted amazing on salad anyway.  I ate a bunch of them as snack food.  Very awesome.  Failing at croutons isn't failing at all.